Peter G writes,
It's important to expand your horizons. Lately, the Chicago area has seen the convention scene settle into a pattern of sameness. You have C2E2 and Wizard World, you have a couple of smaller local cons, but those are falling by the wayside. For example, DanCon, one of my favorites, is pretty much not coming back, a real disappointment.
But there are new horizons to explore, especially if you look alongside comics and consider more of the geek subculture. And one such new show is LodgeCon, a convention with a focus on tabletop gaming. Founder Patrick Schreurs started it just last year. The inaugural LodgeCon was an intimate little affair, taking place at a gaming store called The Dragon's Refuge located in Bourbonnais, Illinois. They only had one module, Pathfinder (gathering groups are called "lodges" in the local parlance, hence the name "LodgeCon"), very little advertising, and even less money. And yet, they managed to book the place to capacity with about 50 people. For the second year, Schreurs saw a huge increase in interest, not only from other tabletop fans and groups like Game Base Seven, but also from game companies and organizers, like the Pathfinder Society looking to sponsor the show. So he decided to expand the venue, holding the show at the Will County Fair Atrium in Peotone, Illiinois.
It's been a long time since I did any tabletop gaming, but I do enjoy games and was even on the card gaming scene for a few years, and decided to check it out. In deference to its expanded status, LodgeCon was going to feature more room, vendors, panels, and performances — filk musical Dan The Bard did three sets there. So I grabbed my gear and headed on over.
The most interesting thing was when you got in the door — there was a set-up of computer monitors and chairs in a semi-circle with a singular chair in the middle. If this sounds like a Star Trek set-up, you're right. For a donation, people could play as a starship crew, with each person manning a station and a captain in the middle. This was the front part of the con, where the vendors were, as well as the snack bar being run by the local 4H club. The next section was for the panels, and past that, the gaming area. Tables were color coded to help group Magic: The Gathering players, Star Wars, Pathfinder, and so on (I was the only one there with a Mortal Kombat deck, because no one appreciates the classics). And yes, people went on pizza runs to keep the gamers fueled (the first rule of D&D — whoever buys the pizza, lives. Second rule? The DM lies).
Among the people there to hold panels and work the crowd was the podcast 14 Going On 40, which also held little trivia contests for attendees. Movie critic Don Shanahan of the blog Every Movie Has A Lesson talked about the current state of fantasy and sci-fi films. But one of the big panels was Building Diversity In Geek Culture. It was hosted by Wesley Sun of local indie comic studio Sun Brothers Studio. Featured on the panel was Dawn Xiana Moon of the geek bellydancing troop Raks Geek (— if you ever wanted to see a bellydancing Wookie, this is where you look), Keisha Howard of Sugar Gamers, and Alison Ooms, a venture captain with the Pathfinder Society. Ooms also hosted a panel on starting your own Pathfinder lodge, and Sun hosted a panel on crowdfunding comic books. The evening wrapped up with author C.J. Rose, creator of the Generation Son book series doing a dramatic reading.
It was very nice and very very quiet — longtime tabletop gamers will remember an issue of Dragon magazine with a cover cartoon by Phil Foglio, showing an entire high school lunch room having a food fight except for a table of D&D players hunkered down with their dice and character sheets in the middle. The gamers were happy. The vendors were happy. The attendees were happy. And that made Schreurs happy. He's already preparing for next year. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.